Paper Recycling

From newspapers and magazines to shipping containers to pizza boxes, paper products are everywhere—in our schools, offices and homes. Americans throw away about 70 million tons of paper each year, and 80 percent of that discarded paper finds its way to landfills, where it decomposes and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The process of making paper from raw materials uses a significant amount of energy and is harmful to the overall health of the environment. It takes one 35-foot-tall tree to make a stack of paper that is only six feet tall, but recycling just one ton of newspapers saves 17 trees. In 2011, 37 percent of the fiber used to make new paper products came from recycled sources, which reduced greenhouse gas emissions and saved landfill space. Why Recycle Paper? Manufacturing new paper products from recycled paper is a much cleaner and more efficient process than making paper from trees because the work of extracting and bleaching the fibers has already been done. Recycling paper leads to less water, energy and chemical use and reduced air and water pollutants. Recycling keeps paper out of landfills, freeing up space for other waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Using recycled paper also slows down the harvest of trees, conserving an important natural resource. Each ton of recycled paper saves 3.5 cubic yards of landfill space, 17 pulp trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 380 gallons of oil and eliminates 60 pounds of air pollutants. The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years. In addition to benefiting the environment, recycling paper also helps control waste disposal problems in communities and reduces the need for more landfills. Recycling can even save communities—and thus taxpayers—money on waste disposal. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. residents had access to recycling programs or recycling centers in 2010. To find a recycling center near you, visit the EPA’s Where You Live page.